Chairman of Israeli Arab-Jewish Hadash Party Reelected Amid Possible Split in Alliance

Hadash keeps Ayman Odeh as its leader, while officials discuss redrawing alliance of Arab-majority parties

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh at the Hadash party council meeting in the northern city of Shfaram, Israel, February 1, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Ayman Odeh was reelected Friday as the chairman of Hadash, part of the Joint List political alliance of Arab-majority parties, ahead of the April 9 election.

Hadash, the only Arab-Jewish political party in Israel, is considering joining forces with the Balad party for the upcoming election, as Joint List parties are discussing ending their alliance after prominent MK Ahmad Tibi's Ta'al party withdrew from it.

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The party's council met in the northern city of Shfaram to confirm Odeh's election, after two of the other candidates for the position – Jafar Farah, head of the Mossawa Center and a political activist, and Shukri Awawdeh, deputy mayor of Nazareth – dropped out of the race.

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MK Aida Touma-Sliman was elected for the second spot on the Hadash slate, after Farah said he was rescinding his candidacy.

"The fascist right is delegitimizing us," Touma-Sliman said. "They said we're traitors and incited against us, but even in rough times we're not afraid of Netanyahu. We're stronger than him, because we have behind us an entire public of both Arabs and Jews who want peace, justice, liberty and democracy."

Hadash's's only Jewish MK, Dov Khenin, announced last month he would not run in the upcoming election, but would still be involved in public life.

Hadash party members vote during a council meeting in the northern city of Shfaram, Israel, February 1, 2019.
Rami Shllush

In a statement following his reelection, Odeh said: "When everyone is talking about who is going to replace Netanyahu, I would like to ask, what do we replace him with? With which values? Citizens must ask themselves, are we going toward democracy or toward apartheid?"

"In the face of incitement, the nation-state law, racism, desperation, Hadash and the Joint List will lead values of peace, equality, democracy and justice," he added. "Those who want us fractured and separated, weak and in desperation, will get us stronger and united, with hope for change."

Odeh also said: "You can't do without us. The left without the Arab population is no left. Only a broad democratic bloc is the true alternative to the rule of the fascist, extremist right-wing."

The Joint List was officially launched in 2015 after Israel raised the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent, making it likelier that individual parties representing Israel's Arab population could be shut out of the Knesset unless they allied with other parties. It is currently the third-largest bloc in the Knesset. Recent polls project that it will win 12 seats out of the Knesset's 120 in the upcoming election.

A poll published in Israeli media in early January showed that 47 percent of Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship would prefer lawmaker Ahmad Tibi as chair of Join List political party over its current chair. The poll also found that Tibi's party Ta'al would receive 43 percent of Arab votes if the election was held today, compared with 38 percent who said they'd vote for an alliance of the other Arab parties.

At the beginning of January, Tibi submitted a request to the chairman of the Knesset House Committee to allow Ta’al to split off from the Joint List. Tibi decided to leave after multiple attempts to introduce a new system of open primaries for the Joint List, or alternatively choosing the Knesset slate based on opinion polls. Tibi feels Ta’al is underrepresented on the Joint List, but the other three Arab parties refused to cooperate with Tibi’s proposals.

Joint List partner Balad will hold its primary on Saturday, after two of Balad’s three Knesset members, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, announced they are not running for reelection. 16 new candidates are competing for 5 places on the party slate